“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It was not that long ago that most people were blissfully unaware of the existence of impostorism. In fact, perhaps the most significant barrier to understanding impostor syndrome is that most people experiencing it are blissfully unaware of its presence and impact.
These days though, it seems to have entered everyday language. People in the public eye, including politicians, actors, F1 drivers, and artists, seem to queue up to speak about their struggles with Impostor syndrome.
Maybe by understanding the phenomenon a little more, you can reveal clues to help you think about the experience of it in your own life. The literature on this subject is pretty dry, but here are eight facts about Impostor Syndrome
- It’s more common than you might think, with research indicating that around 70% of people experience impostor feelings during their life. It is most common when they move to a new environment or workplace or are involved in new social interactions (including relationships).
- In the commercial world, surveys show that around 80% of CEOs and entrepreneurs experience impostor syndrome in their working life.
- The idea that people see themselves as impostors was first identified in the 70s by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. It emerged as an idea while researching high-performing women in higher education and professional settings.
- It’s a psychological occurrence where people doubt their abilities and role in achievements, accompanied by a fear of being exposed as a fraud.
- It doesn’t appear to matter what external markers of their success are present or the quality of feedback they receive from others. In the mind of the impostor, this is luck or their ability to hide their incompetence from others.
- It was initially thought to be a problem primarily amongst high-performing women, but it is known to affect both genders equally. Women tend to experience it more concerning their performance relative to others, whereas for men, it tends to be a fear of not being successful or good enough
- It is neither a recognised mental condition nor a cognitive bias. Instead, it is a unique experience that occurs within an individual in response to unique situations and activities.
- It can be considered to exist on a spectrum of behaviours with the Dunning-Kruger effect (the tendency for people with low ability/experience of a particular skill/field tend to overestimate their ability and knowledge) at the other end.
Whilst it is a simple idea to grasp, the complexity comes from the uniqueness of the underlying causes and the way it makes different people behave.
If you feel that Imposter Syndrome is holding you back in your career, and your personal life, why not get in touch for a chat, or find out more about the challenge of Imposter Syndrome and how we can help.